Pattrn is the co-founder of Initiate, FTRSND Collective and Brussels Electronic Marathon Festival. A multi-talented artist, he started his musical journey at 4, playing the violin. Later, he went on to study both acousmatic music composition at the Mons Conservatory and sound engineering at SAE institute in Brussels. His journey then took him to work at Fuse club as head sound engineer, to eventually become the clubs’ artistic director.
Pattrn has always been attracted by knobs and cables, so it was pretty logical he ended up patching and twisting modular synthesizers and drum machines. Fuelled by the energy the audience provides him, he now uses his many talents and exceptional ear to create unique atmospheres during his sets. Tireless, his performances pack a load of power!
Looking back: What was your relationship with music in your teenage years? When did you first began to gravitate towards electronic music?
I started learning the violin when I was 3 and started to have fun with the piano that was home. I was about 8 when my big brother started to make me cassettes compilations of dance tracks (2 fabiola, sash!, the age of love,…) this is how I first discovered electronic sounds. When I was about 12 with my best friend I started to “dj” (with a shitty img stageline mixer and 2 hi-fi cd players) at parties in our friends garages. A few years later I started to play around with FL Studio (fruity loops). This was my gaming console. Back then internet was slow as hell (56k modem) and being a kid of my age having access to documents, tutorials or help from friends was not so easy so the learning curve was very slow and everything was only learned by try and error. This is when I also bought turntables and started to dive deep into electronic music. Highly influenced by what I could find at that moment: compilations from Palladium club and other Belgian clubs, and I fell in love with Progressive (house) sounds, labels as Bedrock or Bonzai had a big influence on what I wanted to produce back then.
What kinds of music were you listening to while you were growing up. In other words, what styles and/or artists have helped sculpt your creative image.
My mother was a lot into classical music and my dad into jazz. Playing the violin at music school I started enjoying a lot composers as Debussy, St-Saëns, Dvorak, Shostakovich, Bartok. On mu dad’s side (and liked to the violin) I listened (and played onto) Stephan Grapelli, Roby Lakatos but also Oscar Peterson , Martial Solal, Dave Brubeck and Keith Jarret. As said earlier, from my 8th birthday I got introduced to electronic music via my brother and since then the love story started . Going from progressive, to progressive house, deep house and now deep hypnotic techno.
You recorded an exclusive 3 hours mix for InDepth. Can you talk a little bit about the direction you took when piecing this mix together?
I just tried to sketch the musical universe that I love diving into at the moment and that was fitting the vibe expected here. To be honest I like not to overthink things when it comes to playing music, more trust my guts and feelings, this also the reason why I don’t prepare those recordings. I like to approach it as I do while playing in a club: I have playlists prepared, tracks tagged with all kinds of adjectives and then I just go with the flow. The mix somehow constructs itself, one track leads to another, then I feel I wanna take slight turn, bring some fresh vibe or surprise and so on..
Techno as a musical subculture has undoubtedly grown in popularity in the past 10 years or so. What do you think is next for the genre? Where do you think it will go?
Business has eaten this scene and to my opinion the deep/hypnotic subgenre is one of the few remaining places where you can still fin authentic artists doing it for the right reasons and not only for money and fame. I fear the whole business/industry will collapse because of too big ego’s amongst artists, too greedy bookers and basically people sucking life out of the scene and killing it. “Underground” has disappeared and became a selling adjective. Obviously making music is a job and any job deserves to be paid, of course if an artists fills a football stadium his economic value is bigger than the one bringing only 2 friends to a venue BUT economic value doesn’t mean artistic value and we end up mixing up art and entertainement.
Business has eaten this scene and to my opinion the deep/hypnotic subgenre is one of the few remaining places where you can still fin authentic artists doing it for the right reasons and not only for money and fame.
Are there collectives, labels or artists that you are following closely at the moment?
Definitely loving what comes out from Hypnus records, Norite records, Aarden records, Affin, Oslated and The Gods Planet. I’m pretty into the 170BPM broken things as well with that strong UK vibe, thinking of Livity Sound (Kowton, Simo Cell, Hodge) recently I really fell for Henry Greenleaf, Ruff Cherry and Significant Other
With the rise in popularity of techno combined with the accessibility and affordability of music technology, DAWs like Ableton Live & Logic are becoming more commonplace on people’s computers. Do you have any advice for aspiring producers?
Tricky question, everything is changing so quick and the access to information is also changing a lot. I’d say I general, believe in yourself as no one will do it for you until you make it. Work your ass off because luck might happen to some but work will always pay off. Never believe someone who tells you you can’t do something and remember that art is meant to break rules. Stay humble and remember that you’ll never be able to know it all, so embrace imperfection as long as you try the hardest you can to do the best you can.
Never believe someone who tells you you can’t do something and remember that art is meant to break rules. Stay humble and remember that you’ll never be able to know it all, so embrace imperfection as long as you try the hardest you can to do the best you can.
Usually, you would be playing at a club or festival like any other artist. Now Covid-19 hit our life in every aspect of our society. How does the virus affect you personally and do you have alternative options for your income and living?
Sure it brought heavy changes both in the day to day life but also on the vision I could have of myself, how I feel the society in general is really considering us BUT at the end I came to the conclusion that what matters is being able to do things that simply make me happy. So survive financially I started again to give some private courses (sound design, djing,…) I also slightly developed my audio mastering activities as this is something I really love but never had time to do “professionally” and last but not least I started making presets for synthesizers (mostly Serum) and sample packs (mostly from my modular synth)
How have you been approaching music during this time?
It’s been tricky, the first onths of the lockdown I couldn’t barely make any as I was busy 24/7 with my little daughter who is now 1,5 years old. Then when the crèche opened again I had some time but was totally lacking energy and inspiration. This took me about 1,5 months to find my mojo back. Seeing no future and having all gigs cancelled was hard to find the motivation to start making music again. What for if I wasn’t able to play my music, to see people enjoying it, sharing smiles with an audience…
Making the presets for synths helped a lot at it started by doing something more utilitarian, where at first creativity was not needed still I was busy inside Ableton making sounds. At some point (after only a wee) I started to feel lost and was also lacking ideas on which type of sounds to make and for what purpose. So I started just to draft track sketches to be able to have ideas to design some sounds, but with no pressure, not with the idea to really “make tracks”. Eventually this helped a lot by relieving the pressure and the need of a proper result. After one or two more weeks I had like 20 new track sketches and was willing to make some proper tracks out of some of these. Then things became compulsive, my mojo was back, I wasn’t doing this with a specific goal, and I had nice sonic material to play with. SO I made 13 tracks in the last 2 weeks out of these sketches and really enjoyed doing it. First building arrangements, then drafting some automations and evolutions to support the arrangement, after that mixing all the sounds so they were fitting nicely together and ultimately adjusting some automations/arrangement parts so I felt the tracks were done.
With the closure of almost every club and festival: What do you think are the consequences for the club culture and how can the damage be prevented?
Club culture doesn’t rely only on to clubs to survive but obviously I pray for the clubs to be able to support the financial crisis. If they end up closing all it would be a drama not only for the culture but for the economy, for the safety of the “clubbers” who won’t stop partying but might end up in lesser safe spaces (more overall “products” consumption, no security to protect the weakest, sexual misbehavior, …) for the air bubble these venues provide to people who want to escape from their daily life (in particular these anxiety inducing times), for the open minded environment they provide to help fight for equity and inclusion. It’s a known fact that raves are already popping here and there and people will never stop listening to music or dancing, it’s just something we need. We are social animals and we need to meet siblings. Partying isn’t only about music and artistic pleasure; it’s social cement. If the biggest institutions fall in pieces it would be a shame, but some ne ones will always arise.
If clubs end up closing all it would be a drama not only for the culture but for the economy, for the safety of the “clubbers” who won’t stop partying but might end up in lesser safe spaces […]
What can politicians do to better support the homegrown nightlife?
This is exactly the work we started with the Brussels By Night Federation at this, ideas on the table are financing clubs and paying (partly) back the costs venues had for the lasts month while having no income, helping the scene to restart once clubs will be able to open again with paying a percentage of artists fees, and reducing taxes on the staff. To be honest there is so much to do that this could be one article on itself..
You joined the « Brussels By Night Federation », the new federation representing nightlife professionals (clubs, night bars, concert venues, promoters etc) for the Region of Brussels. Can you talk us about your work in the federation ?
We’re working on three main topics:
1) bringing together the professionals from our sector and building a common base of knowledge and good practices to work professionally
2) representing our members and bringing to the politics all the common problems from our sector (and some solutions we could consider)
3) writing a protocol to “reopen the night”. A series of practices and financial supports that would make if possible to still be able to open clubs even if COVID is still in te air.
What are your other projects at the moment and what can we expect from you in the future?
There’s something really huge cooking with the federation and other actors of the “event ecosystem” but I can’t talk about it right now 😉
Let’s chat about your music process, workflow and more. It’s our geek moment. Do you have a different approach to music from behind the decks to within the studio, or is there a constant personal identity that you identify within all music that you play?
I don’t overthink these things. My “rational brain” is already put to heavy contribution with different activities. While making or playing music I like just to follow my instinct and my feelings. I believe somehow people pay too much attention to “being consistent”, having a “proper image”. Like “oh I’m making techno so I should only wear black”… Honestly fuck that shit, this are only barriers you build for yourself. I wanna play and make music that I like, that is moving me. Doing so is for me the real gate-keeper to authenticity, no crap, no bullshit, no fake personality… Simply just me and what I like, point. Enjoying the process, having fun (of producing or playing music) is the essential part of it… otherwise I could better work for a bank or an insurance company with guaranteed revenues…
Can you talk us a bit about your studio process ? What kind of gear do you use, and how did you learn to use them?
Ableton is the central part of the studio, it sends midi clock to my analog rytm and my modular rack, it sends midi notes to all the other synths and in this way is working as my main sequencer except for the modular where I mainly use Winter Modular Eloquencer as sequencer (but sometimes I also jut send midi notes when i wanna play a specific sequence already programmed into Ableton.
The drums in my productions mainly come from the Analog Rhythm (using nearly only the analog sound engines, no samples). The modular synth is used a bit for everything from basses to “percussive melodies” to background ambiances. It’s connected to a Mackie mixer that allows me to sum several synth voices from the modular and to add some effects with outboard sends.
Everything is connected to a patch that goes to the sound card. Drums are recorded voice after voice in small loops (4 bars max) while I like to play longer sequences (jamming) with one voice at a time on the modular.
Then I make the arrangement inside Ableton with the audiofiles and sometimes re-record a whole sequence from the modular while the full track is playing. I also use a lot Ableton stock synth Operator as well as Xfer Serum which is an amazing sounding virtual synth with so many routing capabilities, it’s nearly a modular synth as a plugin. I try to split as much as possible the process by having phases of sound design, phases of track arrangement and then proper mixing phases so i can focus my attention only to some aspects of the track.
You play live acts and hybrid sets with hardware and modular synths. What excites you about working as a live act compared to say, DJing?
In fact I’m excited as much by both but on different aspects/levels… the simplicity of dj sets (and no heavy gear lifting, no soundcheck,…) where I can commune better with the audience and feel really where to go, which story to tell and “take them with me” is amazing and so much genuine fun. Playing live opens a whole world of freedom and craziness, which is amazing. Knowing you can do what you want and are not depending on a track structure, build up and so really tell YOUR story, adding a ¾ kick for example to mess up with the audience, or a simple downbeat high-hat that makes everyone move is such a great feeling, it allows to really play with the audience BUT sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming, you might get lost, loose track of time, enjoying only yourself. It requires a lot more of attention to the time passing and being sure you’re not actually loosing the audience.
Let’s chat a bit about your live setup. What does it consist of? Do you have a favourite piece of kit that tends to form the basis of most of your setup?
Live or hybrid I always take my Analog Rhythm… love the sound, the architecture, the fact that I can also sometimes just hit pads and PLAY like a drummer, not only twist knobs. Also it’s really compact so fits in any backpack or laptop stand.
And what about your modular synth ? Modular synthesiser’s world is wide. The choice of modules and brands is relatively large. Which would be the 3 essential modules for you?
Ow! That’s a very tricky and sneaky question..
Obviously you need some oscillators so I’d go for a Belgian band called Klavis who developed an amazing dual VCO/LFO (quantized, doing FM, VCA, S&H, wavetable,…) called Twin Waves. It’s quite digital/clean but really versatile for as small as 8HP. Would love to sneak another VCO in the list which is the Richter Anti-Oscillator, the thing is just magic, pure organic feeling, it lives on itself
Filter wise I’m just in love with XAOC Belgrad, the thing has mojo, color many cv entries and the feel of the cutoff know is just magic. I recently accepted to enjoy also some “non sonic” aspect of things as just touching this knob gives me pleasure and changes my state of mind while making music.
Lastly (I know it’s four but I gave 2 VCO’s :p) for the deep and hypnotic sounds you need some proper reverb. On this aspect I’d go for the Clouds (firstly from mutable) but I got myself a clone that takes lesser HP’s. Lush ambiances you want to drown into !
You shared your knowledge a lot as a teacher at the SAE Institute Brussels and via Facebook lives. What advice would you have for beginners who are starting out in the modular system (and/or in the music production)?
For the modular systems I’d say don’t buy a small case as it will eventually fill up quicker than you might think. Pay attention to the size of modules (for the same reason).
Don’t buy many modules at the same time, get one and try to get the most out of it. Try out “self patching”: how much sounds can you get out of one module without plugging it to anything (or to as little as possible) like making a VCO out of a filter with simple feedback loop (output plugged into input) for example, or making it an oscillator while cranking op the resonance as crazy… Go extreme!
About music production I’d say learn as much as you can but never take something you learned for granted. There is no absolute truth except what your ears and your feeling tell you.
Don’t make decisions based on what you see, close your eyes and trust your ears as no one is watching music.